Forum helps businesses and organizations 'find opportunities in uncertain times'

Calgary businesses and organizations looking to "find opportunities in uncertain times" attended the Soul of the Next Economy forum over the past few days. 

The conference brings together businesses, non-profits, academia and government organizations to talk about how to do business in a way that not only makes money but also has a positive impact on society. 

"How do these various sectors collaborate in such a way that we leverage our various efforts to be able to positively influence and improve the lives of so many people?," said Randy Poon, an associate professor at Ambrose University and chair of the conference.

Poon said one message was repeated throughout the conference, and he hopes attendees take it with them into their own endeavours.

"You've got to be focusing on more than just the financial shareholder as a single stakeholder, but all stakeholders," he said. 

Nolan Matthias's company, Mortage 360, was recognized at the conference with the BCorporation Leader award for using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. 

Matthias says they do things like pay their employees a living wage and help people navigate a complicated mortgage world.

Despite hard economic times, his company was able to increase revenues by 39 per cent in 2019, and he says others can achieve successes, too.

"If you have a strong purpose and you can create an exceptional product and an exceptional experience, there is so much market share to be taken even in a recession," he said.

Lucie Edwardson/CBC

Poon says they recognize how difficult the economy has been on folks in the past few years, but he says that with every downturn and every misfortune there is opportunity. 

"And I think it fosters innovation and fosters ingenuity," he said, pointing to Calgary's True Buch Kombucha as an example.

"They were only established in 2014. Their director of marketing basically mentioned this morning that they've only known the uncertainty. They've only known basically the downtimes in Calgary," he said.

"Yet, they have thrived in the midst of that. And so I think that's part of its perspective. I know it's difficult and and we know it's hard. We know that thousands of Calgarians have lost their jobs. At the same time, too, though, it's also a time for opportunity."

Meaghon Reid with Vibrant Communities Calgary was one of the hosts of the conference. 

She said one of the things that makes the conference valuable to the city is the cross-sector fluidity. 

"It's easy to work in your silo. So, 'I'm in the non-profit sector,' or 'I'm in the business sector,'" she said. "We see the real magic happen when all of these sectors get together to come to a great solution to our biggest social needs. And that's what's really happening here."